By Daniel Hunter

The UK’s £9 billion space sector is about to become even bigger after the Government pledged an extra £60 million to Europe’s space programme, the Chancellor announced today during a speech at the Royal Society.

Subject to the outcome of the high-level discussions at European Space Agency (ESA) Ministerial, the UK space sector expects significant returns from this further investment. Industry has already identified projects to the value of £1 billion that should follow in train from this additional funding.

The investment through the UK Space Agency will also secure the future of the ESA facility in Oxfordshire, including transferring ESA’s telecoms satellite headquarters to the UK and creating over 100 new high-tech jobs.

This will put Harwell at the centre of space technology and development, reinforcing the work of the Satellite Applications Catapult Centre and RAL Space. The hub will work with partners in the UK, across Europe and around the world to drive an ever-increasing range of exciting new opportunities for industry and academia.

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts said:

“This increase will bring the UK’s total investment in the European Space Agency to an average of £240 million per year over the next five years. This will allow the UK to play a leading role in the next phase of European space collaboration. It will drive growth, create extra skilled jobs and help the UK to realise its ambition to have a £30 billion space industry by 2030.”

The announcement comes ahead of the European Space Agency’s Ministerial Council — a two-day meeting that takes place every four years to reach key decisions on European space programmes and activities for the future. The meeting is due to start in Naples on the 20th of November and will be attended by David Willetts. During the proceedings the Minister will negotiate the UK’s commitment to individual programmes from the purse of funding announced today.

Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of the European Space Agency said:

'With this substantial increase in investment, the UK is helping to promote competition in and encourage the growth of the European space sector by developing space capacities in the UK. In addition to the increased use of UK industry, our commitment to growing ESA's facility here in Harwell confirms that the UK Space Agency is taking up more of a leadership role in key parts of the space sector.'

The new resources will be focussed on projects that will bring economic growth to the UK. One example is a new generation platform for telecommunications satellites. This will provide a 20 year horizon for new satellite sales that are competitive in the global market. Another is the next generation of weather satellites, where a UK contribution to ESA programmes will bring significant business through future orders.

Dr David Williams, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

“Space is a key asset for the UK. The decisions made at the upcoming Ministerial meeting will shape the future of the European space sector, especially given the current economic downturn. By pledging an extra £300 million over the next five years, we can put the UK in a leadership role for several major ESA projects. That will ensure that UK industry continues to win lucrative space contracts over the next 5 to 10 years and builds on the momentum of the UK’s flourishing space sector.”

Andy Green, Chief Executive of Logica and co-chair of the Space Leadership Council:

"Industry believes that the announcement made today will play a key role in helping the space sector deliver its ambitious aims to grow the UK's share of the fast-growing global space market, generating 100,000 new jobs by 2030."

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